Theologian urges Kent: 'Occupy the Bible'

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

Theologian Susan Thistlethwaite acknowledges that her message urging economic fairness is a bit controversial.

"I don't seek controversy, but I do speak my mind," she said. "That in our polarized society means it will generate some controversy. If you speak your mind on economic justice, it's going to be controversial."

Thistlethwaite recently spoke her mind at the Kent United Church of Christ. Her message was based on her book, "Occupy the Bible, What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power," which will be the guide for the church's Lenten study on Wednesday evenings, 7 to 8:15 p.m., through March 20, in VanMeter Hall.

"I am sick and tired of the Christian right acting like their version of Christianity is the only one," she said. "They're wrong about the teachings of Jesus on economic fairness."

She said Jesus announced his ministry as "the year of the Lord's favor," which was a direct reference to the Year of Jubilee in Hebrew culture. The Year of Jubilee was known commonly by people of the day as an "economic reboot" when debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, and property was redistributed.

The message is repeated throughout the gospels, she said, with the Lord's Prayer containing another reference, and she suggested that it was this message that was so controversial to the Roman establishment that he was crucified for it.

"Why was he so controversial?" she said. "Crucifixion was a Roman method of punishment. Why would the Romans bother about an itinerant preacher? They crucified people who were a threat to the Roman establishment."

She said today's families wake up in the middle of the night worrying that they're upside down on their mortgages and that their kids have $85,000 in debt and make $8.50 an hour.

"Millenials," she said, "are slaves to their student debt and have an unemployment rate that is twice the national average."

"What does Jesus have to say about that?" she said.

She hopes to convince people that "these aren't Christian values" and points out that the economic imbalance and decline of the middle class is a threat to democracy.

"If that's controversial, so be it," she said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

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